Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along

tea & crumpet sew-along: cutting, marking, & constructing the bodice

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along

Hello and welcome to day two of our sew-along! Today we are cutting, marking, and constructing our bodice – both the fashion fabric, and the lining. Remember that the sew-along posts and questions are hosted on Facebook, in the “Sew Alongs & Sewing Contests” group.

For this entry, we are cutting our fabrics and constructing our bodice. You will need:

1. Your fashion fabric and lining fabrics, pre-treated
2. Tracing paper, tracing medium and wheel
3. Your machine, ready to rumble!

Let’s go!
In our last entry, we prepared our pattern (including taping up stitching and dart lines that we will transfer) experimented with seam and hem finishes, and made up a muslin. We should now be prepared to lay out, cut, and mark our fashion fabric and lining pieces. Today I will cover cutting the fabric, marking it, interfacing portions, and constructing the bodices (lining and fashion fabric).

I used to be fanatical about cutting out all garment pieces at once. These days, I’m far less likely do do that. For instance, when I make jeans or trousers I cut the waistband (and belt carriers) last.  In the wool crepe dress’ case, I waited on the belt as I wasn’t sure if I wanted the belt black or printed. If you do cut the belt at this time, determine if you want to interface it (probably), and interface as you usually do (I generally cut a slightly larger piece of interfacing, block fuse, then cut the belt strip).

Laying out and cutting fabric is beyond the scope of this sew-along. The topic itself is surprisingly vast (check out this 18-page Home Ec-esque lesson primer)! If you are familiar with the process, forge ahead with after reading my following paragraph – and if you are not, please feel free to ask questions before proceeding. I am available on the Facebook group and I have helped more than one person via Skype call!

But briefly: if you are working with a knit, lay your fabric out, overnight if possible, and allow it to “rest” before cutting (trust me, it makes a difference). If you are cutting with something slippery and/or sheer or semi-sheer, you may want to use spray-starch on the fabric, then cut in a single layer using paper underneath the fabric (you can see a brief summation of this process in my video here – about the 1:30 mark). About spray-starch to help tame shifting grain and/or sheer fabrics: in the silk version of this dress, the slik habotai lining responded well to spray starch – the fashion fabric (a crepe de chine) did not. However, another crepe de chine dress I made recently absolutely responded to starch. It goes to show that while general guidelines are fabulous, sewing is art as much as science!

Here is the silk habotai, before and after starch:

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along: Cutting, Marking & Constructing The Bodice
Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along: Cutting, Marking & Constructing The Bodice
Just as important as cutting precisely (you note I use a rotary mat and blade for this), is marking precisely. Ideally you would be marking, and only moving the project once – to the sewing table. For marking, I generally use thread tacks or, in the case of darts, a wax paper (my favorite is from Richard the Thread) that has been taped on the wrong-side (for durability). Below are the marks, using a white tracing medium. Note that for a light fabric, white is barely visible. But, it is visible enough. (You could also use a dark tracing paper):

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along: Cutting, Marking & Constructing The Bodice
Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along: Constructing The Skirt & Sleeves
Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along: Cutting, Marking & Constructing The Bodice
After marking all darts and seamlines, you now will want to stay stitch all necklines and armscye seams, right along your marking. The staystitching provides strength and structure, but will also help us when we insert a lining.

And now, it’s time to sew darts! You’re going to get lots of practice: the dress has six darts in the bodice, and six in the lining!

Shown here, sewing a dart in the lining fabric (a silk jersey):

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along: Cutting, Marking & Constructing The Bodice

For darts, you have a few options, depending on how your fabric is handling: you can simply pin the dart and sew. You can hand-baste the dart with silk or rayon thread, 1/16″ inside the dart, then sew the dart. One of my favorite dart techniques involves using an underlining. Here, I stitch 1/16″ inside the dart, both layers together. Then I pin the dart (the stitching line really helps stabilize things), and sew again.

Step one:

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along: Cutting, Marking & Constructing The Bodice

Step two (after the dart has been formed):

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along: Cutting, Marking & Constructing The Bodice
Um, gorgeous? Yes!

After the darts, we can now sew the side seams. Remember in my green silk dress, I sewed regular side seams. In the black wool crepe, I sewed slot seams. Shown below: setting up the slot seam, with the basted side seam pinned to the interfaced crepe strip:

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along: Cutting, Marking & Constructing The Bodice

Here is the underside of the seam. I don’t bother finishing the seam allowances here, as the lining will enclose the entire bodice. You can see my staystitching in the curved armscye, as well:

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along: Cutting, Marking & Constructing The Bodice
And all that’s left to do, is prepare the back seam! Remember, if your muslin demonstrated the dress can pull over the head, you get to omit any back closures. If this is the case for you, you are done with your bodice! Sew up that center back seam for the shell fabric, and the lining. (Or, if you chose to migrate the center back to a fold, then have a cup of tea because you’re done for the day!)

But if you are going to need a zipper or a button placket, now is the time to determine the placket length, and to interface the seam allowance. I elected to install a placket the full length of the bodice, without extending into the skirt. This means I interfaced the center back seam. My general formula for this is to cut a strip of interfacing that is (seam allowance + topstitching width + 1/4″). If you are installing an invisible zipper, as I have (shown below), you merely need to interface (seam allowance + 1/2 width of zipper). Basically, you want to be interfacing enough that any stitching used to install the zipper, will pass through interfaced-layers only). I have never regretted interfacing a seam allowance (yet), but plenty of times I’ve regretted skipping that step!

Below are my finished invisible zipper and button placket installations, which we will be going into after we finish our skirt:

Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along: Cutting, Marking & Constructing The Bodice
Tea & Crumpet Sew-Along: Cutting, Marking & Constructing The Bodice
Tea & Crumpet Dress Sew-Along, V 2


So there we have it! On the eighth of April we venture into putting our skirts together – which is even simpler – and we will install our sleeves. The sleeves are a very soothing, simple part of the dress and get us that much closer to our finished garment.

Happy stitching!

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